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Fears over incitement in the new penal code

About 40 Cambodian journalists have signed a joint statement expressing concern about incitement provisions in the Kingdom’s new penal code, claiming that the threat of criminal charges encourages fearful reporting.

The statement, released on Sunday, said that incitement, as defined in the new criminal code, could be used against journalists with ease.

“The threat from incitement will drive newsmakers to be fearful and discouraged from performing their professional roles, and sometimes they will lose their position as reporters,” the statement warned. “There is less and less freedom for the news.”

The statement urged the government not to bring incitement charges against journalists, and to use the 1995 Press Law instead. Altwhough journalists have been jailed for incitement in the past, none have been charged with the crime under the new penal code, which entered into force in December.

Pa Nguon Tieng, director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said, however, that incitement charges brought against activists and others have given journalists reason for concern. “I have seen that some idea-expressing activists have been accused of incitement, so I think that reporters can suffer easily from the danger of being accused,” he said.  

Nhem Noy, director of the information department at the Ministry of Information, said the government had to implement the law.  “The law must be respected,” he said. Nhem Noy said reporters should make sure they were acting in line with the law and proper moral conduct in order to avoid charges under the penal code.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TEP NIMOL

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